3,656 metres up, and spanning 10,582 square kilometres, Bolivia holds a curious expanse of gleaming salt and, well, more salt. What was once a prehistoric lake in the Altiplano region, are now the biggest salt flats on Earth; a barren, desolate land that has long enchanted the mind. Polygonal mosaics of salt manifest during the bone dry months, while the area mirrors the sky during the rainy season, causing reflections that render the horizon invisible.
Welcome to Salar de Uyuni, one of the most gorgeous places on Earth.
As a growing number of visitors are drawn to the area, entranced by the endless, blinding vistas, the stunning realm has inspired imaginative projects in the area.
Fancy staying in a hotel made out of salt? At Hotel de Sal Luna Salada, you’ll enjoy the Salar’s views in comfortable settings. With food and shelter provided with some amenities, it’s a peaceful way to enjoy the flats.
If you’ve got a taste for outer space and sci-fi, Kachi Lodge offers dome-shaped accommodation that looks like a moon base, enhancing the otherworldly vibe. With interiors decked out with luxury furnishings, this takes glamping to another level.
The Lodge now features a fine dining establishment with the addition of Restaurant Gustu. Having garnered awards across its other branches and pop-ups, you’ll get to partake in inventive feats of gastronomy, using Bolivian products. Who knows, If other restaurateurs catch on, the Salar could become a surreally unique foodie location.
For those who fancy more portable accommodation, you can also rent Airstream campers with friends. Having brought your room along, you can take your time exploring the area, pounding the salt on an incredible road trip.
Arts events have also been attempted here, from live music performances with awe-inspiring visuals to a featured location in a Star Wars film. Thunupa Festival, a live music festival held here, ushered in 2018 with salt-crusted celebration. It also encouraged donations of goods to help the local community as thanks for the use of the location. Here’s hoping future editions will happen. After all, if Utah can turn its salt flats into a motorway for speed junkies, who knows what surprises Salar de Uyuni could pull off?
But for now, this region is plenty of fun on its own. You can go crazy with perspective-altering photography concepts, traverse the area by car or foot, and let the aura of this place overcome you.
Travel in deep enough, and you’ll chance upon Incahuasi Island, a startling volcanic outcropping of rock littered with jutting cacti. Subconsciously, a dislocating thought might creep over you: Am I still on Earth? Spend the night during the wet season, and watch the starry skies reflect off the ground. You honestly might think otherwise.
How to get there:
There are tour packages and transports available from Uyuni, the closest town to the flats, and you can make your way here from La Paz. Tupiza is an alternative starting point if you’re coming from the south, or Argentina. If you’re planning to get here from Chile, San Pedro de Atacama is the main entryway.
Buses or rented vehicles are plentifully available, even from locations as far as Santiago. The main consideration is your travel durations, as they vary depending on your chosen route of travel. It’s a good idea to head to a closer town and get acclimatised first, before continuing to Salar de Uyuni.
Best time to go:
Salar de Uyuni’s rainy season is between December and April. From February till March, you can get your trippy, mirror kicks, as the rainwater has yet to evaporate. For the rest of the year, there’s barely any rainfall, so you can explore with no worries of getting wet. Decide what kind of experience you’d like, and plan your visiting period accordingly. But many recommend enjoying the best of both seasons with a repeat visit.
Some final words of advice:
It’s cold up there, not to mention the windchill that can bring the temperatures even lower. Dress warm, and bring extra layers if you’re spending the night.
Because of the high altitude, it’s best to get acclimatised before heading up to the flats. Chill for a few days in your point of entry (as long as it’s above 3,500m). As your body gradually gets used to the thinner air, you’ll be ready for Salar de Uyuni’s heights.
Ensure you’ve got spare batteries for your cameras so that you can snap away without worry.
All that’s left is to expect a mind-blowing experience as you explore this Bolivian beauty. If you’ve got the time, Bolivia still has other astonishing sights in store.